Pat and Shirley Ryan with Joanne C. Smith and Jude Reyes


Record Gift for New Research Hospital

Posted By Meg Washburn


Chicago Tribune Give Now


CHICAGO — (June 22, 2016) — The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) today announced that Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan have pledged a record gift to advance its revolutionary work. The gift — the amount of which is confidential — is the largest charitable investment in the organization’s 63-year history and will support AbilityLab, RIC’s state-of-the-art research hospital. When the new hospital opens in March 2017, it will be named the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in recognition of this transformative gift.

As a result of this extraordinary gift and the significant boost it creates in RIC’s capital campaign, the organization will raise its goal to $350 million. The campaign is expected to close in December 2017.


With this gift, Pathways, the entrepreneurial organization founded by the Ryans more than 30 years ago, will join the RIC family immediately and the AbilityLab upon its opening. Pathways, with its clinic and web organization, is the leading resource in early detection and intervention tools that maximize children’s motor, sensory, and communication development.

“The integration between Pathways, RIC and the AbilityLab is historic — it makes possible a truly better future for children and adults from around the globe who need our support and services,” said Joanne C. Smith, M.D., RIC president and CEO. “We treasure Shirley and Pat’s trust, and we honor their innovative spirit, boundless compassion and determination to make a difference in the lives of so many people around the world. Through this transformational gift and the growth of the Pathways and AbilityLab family, we will build upon our collective strengths to advance the science, medical care and outcomes for patients everywhere.”

As part of the integration, Pathways will retain its leading brand, clinic and website. The organization’s awareness, messaging and reach will be expanded in coalition with AbilityLab.

“Both RIC and Pathways are so excited about this powerful union which joins two organizations with common values, purpose, vision and dreams,” said Shirley Ryan. We share a long-standing commitment to the advancement of abilities and, with this integration, AbilityLab and Pathways are poised to deepen knowledge, expand therapy and training, and spread global influence further and faster.”

A radical shift

The $550 million, 1.2-million-square-foot Shirley Ryan AbilityLab will be the first-ever “translational” research hospital in which clinicians, scientists, innovators and technologists will work together in the same space, applying (or “translating”) research real time. The AbilityLab will introduce its revolutionary model of care through five Innovation Centers focused on areas of biomedical science with extraordinary promise:

  • Brain Innovation Center
  • Spinal Cord Innovation Center
  • Nerve, Muscle & Bone Innovation Center
  • Pediatric Innovation Center
  • Cancer Rehabilitation Innovation Center

Central to applying research during care will be working human labs where interdisciplinary teams develop new research and insights to help patients gain more function, achieve better outcomes and enjoy greater ability and independence. Each lab will have a unique configuration based on the type of experimentation and functional purpose:

  • Think + Speak Lab
  • Legs + Walking Lab
  • Arms + Hands Lab
  • Strength + Endurance Lab
  • Pediatric Lab

An integration united by common values and vision

Pathways, a leader in raising awareness and spreading knowledge about early detection and intervention for pediatric motor, sensory and communication delays, will be integrated with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. The organization consists of both a state-of-the-art outpatient pediatric therapy clinic as well as an expansive educational website.

Shirley Ryan will join RIC’s Governing Board and continue as Chairwoman of Pathways.

A profile in ability

In addition to her work as Chair of Pathways, Shirley Ryan has been appointed by two presidents to the National Council on Disability, which advises Congress on disability issues. She serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and on the Board of Directors of the University of Notre Dame, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Alain Locke Charter Academy, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She has also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Notre Dame.

Pat Ryan founded and served for 41 years as CEO of Aon Corporation, the leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human resources solutions and outsourcing services. At the time of his retirement, Aon had in excess of $7 billion in annual revenue with more than 500 offices in 120 countries. In 2010, Mr. Ryan founded Ryan Specialty Group, a global holding company which includes wholesale brokerage (the third largest in the country), highly specialized underwriting companies and specialty services designed specifically for agents, brokers and insurers; Mr. Ryan currently serves as Chairman and CEO. He is a member of the International Insurance Hall of Fame, the American Academy of Arts and Science and the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. He has been a member of Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees for the last 38 years and presided for 14 years as its Chairman.

The Ryans have three adult sons, Pat, Rob and Corbett, a daughter-in-law, Lydia, and three grandchildren.

An unprecedented campaign

Given the monumental nature of the Ryans’ gift, RIC’s Board of Directors has taken action to increase the capital campaign from $300 million to $350 million. The campaign launched in July 2013 and extends through December 2017.

“We always felt confident in our ability to achieve significant philanthropic support for our new vision and campaign,” said Dr. Smith. “Now, we’re humbled and motivated by the opportunity to take the campaign even further and generate additional funds for the novel programs and research that will be pioneered in the new facility. The Ryans’ gift is not just a testament to the RIC vision; it’s a sign of great momentum as RIC is now poised to meet, and even potentially exceed, our new $350 million goal. This will have a profound impact on patients, on science and on the future of our field.” 

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